ST. PETERSBURG — The “Southside Lawyer Service,” which launched in the spring of 2014, has picked up momentum as it’s helping seniors get to doctor offices, grocery stores, pharmacies and make other necessary trips. For every election cycle, the service also makes sure seniors get to the polls to vote.
Jeff Copeland, founder of the Pinellas County chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, said the initial idea for the service came “from the heart” as he and Attorney James Flynn were driving one day and noticed a group of elderly people at a bus stop, waiting in the oppressive Florida heat.
“It was hot as all get-out!” he said. “And he [Flynn] wanted to stop and give them a ride. That’s kind of how the whole thing started!”
Flynn came up with the idea and the resources and Copeland organized the plan and put it in motion. More and more people are taking full advantage of the free shuttle service, Copeland said, and estimated that it now transports anywhere between 150 and 200 riders a week. This is a significant increase from when the service first became available.
“When we first started we probably had about 30 or 40 a week,” Copeland said.
As has been the case from the onset, he reiterated, the shuttle service operates free of charge and is bankrolled entirely by Flynn.
“There are a lot of strong black businesses in this city that don’t mind giving back, and he’s one of them,” said Copeland. “If every successful business owner would put money back into the community, it would go a long way towards sustainability.”
There are three vehicles that transport seniors on a daily basis, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. People hoping to use the service should give at least 24 hours’ notice. Currently there are three drivers that safely deliver each senior to their destination: Corey Edwards, Edgar Martin and Tammara Anderson.
“This is the only program of its kind that I know of in Pinellas County,” Copeland noted, “where someone five days a week will give you a free ride and the only requirement is that you be 55 and older.”
Copeland expressed a hope that other business owners and professionals in St. Pete will follow suit and run a similar service for the community.
“We only get bigger and better if other people come in,” he pointed out. “Could you imagine what it would be like in St. Pete? We have only one person doing this right now.”
With no help from any government entity, Copeland stressed that black business need to depend on themselves instead of looking for the city to keep them afloat.
“Back when our parents were coming up they got out, built businesses and became successful,” he said, “they didn’t depend on government handouts.”
The shuttle service is very hands-on. Attorney Flynn’s wife is one of the operators who fields phone calls for the service and books appointments, and even Flynn himself has gotten behind the wheel to drive seniors to their destinations.
“Everybody’s hands on with the program,” Copeland said. “We really enjoy it.”
Seniors can book rides with the “Southside Lawyer Service” by calling (727) 534-9291.